johnmac's rants

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lorien Pratt on this week's johnmac Radio Show with Frank Hickey in the on-deck circle

My guest this week on the johnmac Radio Show (7:00 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, August 30th) is Lorien Pratt, Phd, founder and Chief Scientist at Quantellia, which offers data, machine learning, and decision intelligence software and services worldwide. Join us and expand your mind by keying http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johmac13/2015/08/30/the-weekly-johnmac-radio-show in your browser and or by dialing 646 716-9757 on your telephone. No matter how you listen, you may use the phone number to join our conversation (I hold caller participation to near the end of my interview with my guest).

My guest next week is author Frank Hickey, who returns to the microphones to tell us about his brand new book and to discuss his writing process. I hope you'll join us then also.

I also hope that my readers and listeners will try free subscription to my daily curation of the news, "johnmac's news of the day". Check it out at http://paper.li/f-1416296565 --- Articles for the paper are curated from the New York Times, Reason Magazine, New York Daily News, Wired Magazine, New York Post, the Nation, Washington Post, National Review, TechCrunch, Guardian, Vanity Fair, Miami Herald, the Atlantic, The Times of Israel, The Nation, MIT Technology Review, USA Today, Mother Jones, Denver Post, and other sources. I wish people would try it, comment to me about it (johnmac13@gmail.com) and subscribe -- Only 1 e-mail per day with an article index is received and, as mentioned above, it's free!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

​My conversation with veteran TV writer and my son Luke McMullen


My conversation with veteran TV writer and my son Luke McMullen​
, on ​
​t​
onight's episode
​​
​(​
Sunday,
​ ​
August
​23​
, 2015) of the "Weekly johnmac Radio Show"
​, ​
the
 

102nd episode,
​is available at:​

https://s3.amazonaws.com/btr.shows/show/7/864/show_7864065.mp3

 


The posting of the URL
​by ​
discussion with attorney and Narrowbacks mainstay Edmund Fitzgerald
​t
​hreeweeks ago ​
has been delayed
​still longer​
due to a technical problem -- BlogTalkRadio has been unable to replace the original file containing a technical error with a corrected file --- I assume that this problem will be cleared up shortly.


A bit of commercial information.  My column appears weekly in the Westchester Guardian along with regular columns by ex-Congressperson and co-chair of the 9-11 Commission Lee Hamilton, critic John Simon, and historian Daniel Pipes. The Westchester Guardian is available in print format and online at www.westchesterguardian.com. My books (poetry and fiction) are available at Amazon and I blog at johnmac13.johnmacrants.com.

I also encourage free subscription to my daily curation of the news, "johnmac's news of the day". Check it out at http://paper.li/f-1416296565  --- Articles for the paper are curated from the New York Times, Reason Magazine, New York Daily News, Wired Magazine, New York Post, the Nation, Washington Post, National Review, Guardian, Vanity Fair, Miami Herald, the Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, USA Today, Mother Jones, Denver Post, and other sources.I wish people would try it, comment to me about it (johnmac13@gmail.com) and subscribe -- Only 1 e-mail per day (containing an article index) is received and, as mentioned above, it's free!

I Had An MRI This Morning

(This column was originally published in the Westchester Guardian on August 20, 2015 -- http://www.westchesterguardian.com/8_20_15/wg_8_20_fin.pdf)


Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changes normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  
I Had An MRI This Morning
By John F. McMullen
I had an MRI this morning – it was really no big deal --  no, wait! In many ways, it was a big deal. The “no big deal” was the physical setup – no incisions into my body, no IV, no injections – just show up and start the process. The process itself was better than it might have been a few years ago when the whole body had to be encased in the MRI machine and, when I had that experience a number of years ago, it taught me what claustrophobia really meant.
In this case, I was having my left knee done. It began to lock on me a few weeks ago if I would fall asleep in a lawn chair and hurt quite a bit to “un-lock.” My orthopedist and friend (a past guest on my radio      show -- https://s3.amazonaws.com/btr.shows/show/7/204/show_7204571.mp3), Steve Small, had operated on my right knee last January for a torn meniscus (an operation that went as smoothly as possible – same day: in, cut, out – with a free cane, which was never used – no aftereffects at all; the radio show was done three, 3, that’s three days after the operation) and I suspected that this problem would be something of the same sort. After all, he had told me years ago to expect knee problems, explaining “Your knees weren’t warranted for one hundred thousand jump shots.
The MRI was a big deal first in what it showed for the explosion in medical technology. My father, a New York City Police Officer, had his knee operated on in 1950, leaving a six-to-ten inch scar, confining him to the hospital for a week, and incapacitating him at home for weeks thereafter. He had slipped on ice, chasing a miscreant, and “tore a cartridge,” requiring the operation. I remember hearing that much of the difficulty in the surgery was identifying the damage and correcting it. It seems to me, this sixty-five years later, that the MRI pinpoints the damage before Dr. Small even opens my knee (and that the tools that he has during the surgery are light years ahead of what were available in my father’s time). I certainly do not have the medical background nor my late father’s medical records to make an informed analysis but my best guess is that his corrective surgery would be not much more complicated today than mine – after all, he could have his knee replaced today and not have a longer convalescence period than he had then.
Next to the impact of this technology on jobs -- much of the focus of this column has been on the jobs eliminated through innovation but it must be understood that jobs are also created as technology develops. Think not only of the MRI but also of laser surgery, total body imaging, titanium prosthesis as well as the amount of both medical and technological knowledge that has been amassed in the intervening years and we can only imagine how may new jobs for engineers, biologists, neuroscientists, teachers, technicians, etc. have been created.
Additionally, a whole field of “medical informatics” has arisen to catalog data on illness and treatment, patient records, and medical information and the methodology to both make the information available to physicians and other medical professionals on a timely basis while providing patient privacy under strict government regulation.
Technology, in short, has created jobs that never existed before in the medical field but, unlike other industries, has not eliminated the positions who deal with the public – doctors and nurses. While bank tellers, secretaries, retail clerks, and others who deal directly with the public (as well as manufacturing workers, managers, and other workers) have been adversely impacted by technological innovation, some jobs dealing with the public – doctors, nurses, police officers, cooks, for example – are not adversely impacted. Those jobs are still affected as, in every case, there is much more to be learned now than in previous years to be competent in the work. Many police departments now require college degrees and officers must know how to utilize telecommunications equipment, inquire of criminal justice databases, and, now, use the “cop cams” being employed by many departments. Nurses and doctors must also keep current with new regulations and medical breakthroughs and in the use of new technologies.
Now, back to today’s MRI – it was a very weird experience. For those who have never experienced an MRI, it is very unlike an X-Ray where the experience is simply to setup the plates, “Hold still,” “Let me check them,” “Ok, you’re finished” – an experience of usually under five minutes. The MRI is rather “Lie there and don’t move for thirty minutes.
Sounds easy, huh? Ok – try it! I asked if I could read my book but was told that my turning the page would disrupt the imaging. I was sitting in a chair, in a rather square room, with my leg out in front of me in a cylinder. I began by trying to plan this column but had a hard time focusing because of the strange sounds of my only companion in the room, the MRI – total quiet --- then a machine-gun like “ratatat ratatat ratatat” then a sound like a diesel engine surrounding my leg – all of the sounds and quiet going off at irregular intervals, making it difficult to concentrate on anything of import.
So, I tried to sleep – but that didn’t work either – I actually seemed to hallucinate, seeing a full color picture of my car and other cars in parking spaces in a garage where I’ve never been (kind of a scary image). Then I tried to remember a prayer that I said every week in church but have been unable to call to mind – that didn’t work either so I just concentrated on the “ratatat ratatat ratatat”s until the technician came to free me.
The process then was strange, if not a bit annoying, but provides the almost magical ability to let the doctor know exactly what to expect before picking up the knife – a benefit that my father’s doctor did not have.
There are many aspects of “creative disruption”; technological innovation creates jobs, eliminates jobs, requires greater education of workers, provides immeasurable new benefits for patients, technology firms, and consumers (to name a few), and great challenges for all of us. Only time will tell whether we are up to the challenges!
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Paul Levinson, PhD, author of fiction and non-fiction works, on the Weekly johnmac Radio Show


My conversation with Paul Levinson, PhD, author of fiction and non-fiction works, singer / songwriter and college professor on ​
​t​
onight's episode
​ ​
(​
Sunday,
​ ​
August
​16​
, 2015) of the "Weekly johnmac Radio Show"
​, ​
​the ​
10
​1​
​st episode,
​is available at:​

https://s3.amazonaws.com/btr.shows/show/7/817/show_7817607.mp3
The posting of the URL
​by ​
discussion with attorney and Narrowbacks mainstay Edmund Fitzgerald
​two weeks ago ​
has been delayed
​still longer​
due to a technical problem -- BlogTalkRadio has been unable to replace the original file containing a technical error with a corrected file --- I assume that this problem will be cleared up shortly.
A bit of commercial information.  My column appears weekly in the Westchester Guardian along with regular columns by ex-Congressperson and co-chair of the 9-11 Commission Lee Hamilton, critic John Simon, and historian Daniel Pipes. The Westchester Guardian is available in print format and online at www.westchesterguardian.com. My books (poetry and fiction) are available at Amazon and I blog at johnmac13.johnmacrants.com.
I also encourage free subscription to my daily curation of the news, "johnmac's news of the day". Check it out at http://paper.li/f-1416296565  --- Articles for the paper are curated from the New York Times, Reason Magazine, New York Daily News, Wired Magazine, New York Post, the Nation, Washington Post, National Review, Guardian, Vanity Fair, Miami Herald, the Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, USA Today, Mother Jones, Denver Post, and other sources.I wish people would try it, comment to me about it (johnmac13@gmail.com) and subscribe -- Only 1 e-mail per day (containing an article index) is received and, as mentioned above, it's free!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On The Radio

(Originally published in the Westchester Guardian of August 13, 2015 -- http://westchesterguardian.com/8_13_15/wg_8_13_fin.pdf)



Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changers normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  
On The Radio
By John F. McMullen
I have been a radio fan as long as I can remember -- and that takes me back to 3 or 4 years old when my parents would be listening to “Nick Carter, Master Detective,” “The Shadow,” “Jack Benny” and “Fred Allen” on Sunday afternoon / nights. As I grew slightly older, I moved into my own shows – “Hop Harrigan” and “Terry & the Pirates” in the afternoon and “The Long Ranger,” “Sgt. Preston (with Yukon King),” and “Sky King” in the evening. Additionally, any time that I was home sick from school, I got my mother’s daily regimen of “Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club” and “Arthur Godfrey” in the morning and then the afternoon “soap operas” – “The Romance of Helen Trent,” “Our Gal Sunday,” and “Just Plain Bill."
As I moved into my teen years, commercial radio was changing – dramas were being replaced by music—and I moved, first to popular music with Martin Block and his “Make Believe Ballroom” and then quickly to “Rock and Roll,” first with Alan Freed and to “Jocko” (“Ee tetie ock, this is the Jock and I’m back on the scene with the record machine, saying oo pop adoo which means how do you do”). This stage of my radio life meant trips to the Academy of Music and the Apollo Theatre (where my friends and I were often the only Caucasians in the audience) and the building of a very large library of 45 and 33 RPM vinyl records.
My interest in radio went beyond listening to content. With a friend, the late Bill McLoughlin, I roamed the studios of WINS, WMGM, and WNEW, collecting autographs of on-air personalities, such as Ted Brown, and was actually asked into the studio for a Sam Taub sports show (Marty Glickman  was also in the studio) and for a Blossom Seely / Benny  Fields variety show (Blossom: “and for John and Billy to grow up big and strong, they’ll have to make sure that they have lots of Silvercup Bread in their diet”) . This experience whetted my appetite for greater involvement with radio and, a few years later, when funds were available, I bought a large Grundig Multiband Radio (AM, FM, and Shortwave) and a friend, the late Bob Cummings would stay up all night with me, turning its big dial and picking up stations far from the New York area (WCKY – Cincinnati; WOWO – Fort Wayne, In.; WGN – Chicago; WKBW – Buffalo; and KDKA – Pittsburgh (the first commercial radio station in the country)),
I was still only listening though and, more and more, I wanted to broadcast – to be heard over airwaves. I finally had an opportunity to do so when I was in a carpool, commuting from the Riverdale section of the Bronx to the Wall Street area. Traffic during the rush hour varied from terrible to plain ugly with backups usually caused by an accident or a disabled car. One of the worst elements of being stuck in a backup was not knowing the circumstances and location (“Is it near or all the way down to the end?”” Is the disabled car being towed off?” “Should I get off at the next exit and take local streets or ‘stay with it’?”). The answer came from a technology used by long-haul truckers – Citizens Band Radio (“CB Radio”) and I became licensed as KACK9932 and known on the airwaves as “Captain America.” It was both a god-send to commuters on the road (“You got a down 4-wheeler before the 79 backing it all the way up. Bail out at the 96.”) and a builder of community. People rallied around this technology and started clubs – as later would happen when personal computers arrived.
From there it was a reasonable jump into “ham” or “amateur radio” and I became WB2RWC and talked both around the world and fairly locally on the “two-meter band.” I found it exhilarating to be on the air in this fashion – yet, there was still something missing. It wasn’t like I had been in the studio with Sam Taub when I was a teenager. The talks weren’t scheduled or focused on a particular topic or weren’t intended to be listened to by other people. It was fun but just different.
Over the years after, my use of amateur radio lessened as my consulting business grew but I was fortunate to be interviewed a number of times “in studio” by Joe King and Hank Kee on WBAI’s “Personal Computer   Show” and I also became a regular caller to Bill Mazur’s morning show on WEVD as “John from Jefferson Valley.
I was still hooked – now, if I could only run a show from my own office, interviewing people who interest me without having to have a station affiliation or spend a lot of money on equipment – if only! And then I could! The technology caught up with my desires and, on Sunday night, August 9th, I hosted my 100th weekly “johnmac’s Radio Show.” All shows have been hosted from office or from a vacation location and I’ve had the opportunity to interview writers, technologists, academics, religious leaders, politicians, human rights activists, law enforcement officials, friends from “the old neighborhood” – in short, people who interest me (you can listen each Sunday evening by calling 646 716-9756 at 7:00PM Eastern time – you can also listen to the previous 100 shows by going to www.johnmac13.com on your computer and clicking on the johnmac’s Radio Show tab for the URLs for those shows).
Writing about this progression from listener to broadcaster reminded me of another technological epoch in my life. I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote long essays in grammar school, high school, and college – all in Longhand! (you remember that). When I wrote for the high school paper, someone on the staff typed my column. When I had to have a paper typed in college, my brother or my girlfriend typed it for me. Typing seemed beyond me.
When I went into the business world, my lack of typing didn’t matter. There was always a “typing pool” and, as I moved up the chain, I had a secretary to type my memos.
This all changed when my wife, Barbara, and I formed our own company, McMullen & McMullen. In the beginning, Barbara typed all my memos (taking away from her own work) but things began to change when we got an Apple II and added “EasyWriter” (written by the notorious “hacker” John Draper a/k/a “Capt’n Crunch) to our software library. Now, I could type with one finger (or two or three), make mistakes, correct the mistakes (if I noticed them) and go on. Barbara could then edit the finished document, correcting my most egregious mistakes. Her work in this area continues to this day although the errors are much less due to the advent of a spellchecker.
Over the years, using many different word processors, I’ve written 5 books and approximately 1,900 columns and news stories. I’ve standardized on Microsoft Word (or, rather, its format), a choice made easier approximately ten years ago when Microsoft made Word files compatible between the Macintosh and Windows machines. Now, when I write at my local Barnes & Noble, as I often do, I use Word on my Surface Pro 3 computer, save the output on a USB drive, and, back in the office, transfer it to my MacBook Pro for any final additions or changes (on the occasions that I write on my iPad, I use Apple’s “Pages” program and then e-mail what I’ve written to myself, using the Pages’ facility to “e-mail the file in Word format” – this is what I meant above by or, rather, its format). When I’m finished with the final writing and spell checking, I e-mail the file to Barbara (even though her desk is three feet away) for final editing (which she does on a Windows machine). When I get the file back (also by e-mail), I save it and e-mail it to my editor at a newspaper or magazine. If it’s a proposal or report for a consulting client, I will usually print it and hand deliver it.
An aside, the use of a personal computer for writing became so natural so rapidly that, when I saw “Digital Deli” (http://www.atariarchives.org/deli/), the wonderful anthology that Barbara and I contributed to in 1984, and turned to the article by J. Presper Eckert, the co-inventor of the first working electronic computer, the “ENIAC,” I was taken aback to see that he had written “I must confess that I don't own a personal computer. I have no reason to.” – my immediate reaction (to myself) – “Then how in hell did you write this article.” I knew how he wrote it – the same way that I would have six years before – in long hand, laboring over the writing, particularly over the opening, constantly throwing away pages until, when finally satisfied, giving the finished product to a secretary for typing. We had come a long way since the ENIAC and I was a little disappointed that the chief engineer of the computer hadn’t moved with it (but he was elderly at this point).
A computer can do anything – that’s the moral of this rambling. We just have to be lucky enough to be present when someone develops the necessary software and hardware to allow me to write books and broadcast on the radio, to let Amazon, Netflix, and Yahoo develop television series shown only at their sites, to let Steve Gillmor and his knowledgeable tech friends, stream a regular television show to us (http://techcrunch.com/video/gillmor-gang/). Years ago I heard Carly Fiorina, now a presidential candidate but then CEO of Hewlett-Packard, tell a group “A digital camera is a computer that takes pictures, an airplane is a computer that flies ... and so on.” She got it and could enunciate it earlier than most. We just have to be looking for a solution for our problem and if it’s not there now, it will come – just as my broadcast studio did. You must be alert!
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Odds ‘n Ends

(This column originally appeared in the Westchester Guardian of August 6, 2015 -- http://westchesterguardian.com/8_6_15/wg_8_6_fin.pdf)



Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changers normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  
Odds ‘n Ends
By John F. McMullen
The last number of columns in this on-going series has dealt with the big technology issues which we face – the elimination of jobs because of technological innovation and the resultant social and economic consequences. These are real issues that must be addressed and more and more economists, futurists, political scientists, and other forward thinkers are focusing more and more on them – so I’ll leave the big picture for at least this column to touch on some more current questions.
·      The statistics, from Internet Live Stats (www.InternetLiveStats.com) and derived from the number of homes with Internet connection, show the US figure of users at 279,834,232 with a penetration of 86.75%. The US has the second largest number of Internet users, slightly ahead of India’s 243,198,922 but is dwarfed by China’s 641,601,070 (on only a penetration of 46.03% -- China’s population is over 4x the US’). The US makes up 9.58% of the world’s Internet users compared to China’s 21.97% -- so it is obvious that, as China continues its technological advancement, it will totally dominate, by number of users, the Internet and it is logical that it will push for much greater say in its governance. Based on China’s internal policies of “tight control” (read “censorship”) over the Internet, this does not bode well for the continuance of an “open Internet.”
·      The above statistics show that fewer than 13% of Americans do not use the Internet – why? Statistics from a year earlier (with the US at 84.2%) show the US 29th in the world in Internet penetration. While many of the countries ahead of the US have much smaller populations (ex – The Falkland Islands is #1, Iceland is 2, and Bermuda is 3) and are, therefore, not comparable, many countries that are comparable ranked ahead of the US – Norway (95%), Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Canada (90.9%), The United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, and Japan all ranked ahead of us (the later statistics show that the US has passed Japan). Many of these countries have very similar demographics and it is somewhat difficult to understand why the greater penetration. The obvious answer seems to be that other governments have taken greater leadership in promoting the Internet – if this, in fact is the reason, it is almost shameful since it was the US government that developed the Internet.
It is positive that, in 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order, “Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/06/14/executive-order-accelerating-broadband-infrastructure-deployment), with an August 2013 progress report (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/broadband_eo_implementation.pdf) and followed up in October 2014 with a report from the Federal Communications Commission (https://www.fcc.gov/document/wireless-infrastructure-report-and-order). So there is interest from the top of government and there is motion but the question remains whether the US will be innovative enough to be the strong presence needed to protect an open Internet.
·      A number of my friends do not use Facebookwhy? There is more information to be gotten from the widest distribution of people in the world on Facebook. People post stories from newspapers, television and radio stations and other news sources around the world --- and one can find the smartest collection of people to be found anywhere in the world – because there are more people on Facebook to draw from than in any other group in the world, 1.4 billon monthly active users during the second quarter of 2015 (http://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/). Then, why don’t people join the group – mainly because they don’t understand or choose not to understand. They say “I don’t want to hear about what someone ate for breakfast or about their sex lives” because they have been told that some people post things like that. I’ve tried to explain that you only see postings from those who you designate (with their approval) as “friends” and that you don’t choose those who are into subjects that don’t interest you and, if you make a mistake with a person, then you can “unfriend” them. I also hear that I don’t want to release “that much information about myself.” – the only information that you have to give up is your name and e-mail address. People give up more information with credit & debit card purchases, EZPass transactions, and store premium card use. Finally, I hear “I don’t want to give up that much time daily.”  You don’t have to “give up” any time that you don’t wish to and, for those of us who spend a good deal of time on the Internet, there is efficiency to be gained through the use of Facebook if we choose “Groups” wisely – these will curate items of interest to us. The problem really seems to be that many – including pundits – don’t want to let facts get in the way of opinion, even though the opinion may be 15 years old from when Facebook was in its infancy.
·      There are constantly new “things” coming out – from new Operating Systems (“Windows 10”) to new devices (the “iWatch”) to bigger and more powerful phones. How does one keep up with so many new things and know what to buy? The answer for most is “not well” – it is very difficult to stay up with everything and there is usually no need to do so. Most of us have friends who are “early adopters” and will constantly buy the new thing – we can check with them. We can read publications that bring new items to our attention (a place you might start is my free daily Internet newspaper, “johnmac’s news of the day (http://paper.li/f-1416296565) -- one e-mail per day; check it out and subscribe) or check out “review sites,” such as “Techcrunch” (http://techcrunch.com/) or “CNet” (http://www.cnet.com/) when a particular item piques interest.
One thing to be careful of is putting present feelings or biases in the way of new technology. Many people waited on “Smartphones” because they were sure that they “would never want to send e-mail or look at the web from a phone – or take pictures” – I guess we know how that worked out! We hear the same thing today about “SmartWatches” – “I don’t like to wear any watches” or “What do I care how many steps I walked today?” (on this one – ask your doctor if you should care).
In short, be open to new things not what your pre-conceived notions were about Facebook or SmartWatches or any new thing. Technology changes us, usually for the better – so don’t dismiss new things without giving them a fair shot – and, to come back full circle, for us to get the best from technology, we should have the strongest platform available for all our citizens – demand from your representatives the we do better with our Internet infrastructure!
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen




Monday, August 10, 2015

Frank Gifford, RIP

The death of Giant Great Frank Gifford reminds me that Ed McNulty, the late Pat Maher and I were at "The Greatest Game Ever Played" -- the Giant / Baltimore Colt Overtime NFL Championship Game in 1958 -- we were not only at the game, Ed & I were not only at the game, we were down on the field -- on the Giant sideline for the overtime (today we'd be arrested)! Further, Ed & I walked off with part of the goalpost -- Ed can't find his part; mine is in the corner of my bedroom.

I recounted this story on WFAN with Steve Somers tonight.
e
Gifford was a very good defensive back, a very good running back -- and a precursor to Paul Hornung in running the option -- and a great flanker back.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Hillary and The Republican Debate

 I received the following e-mail from Hillary Clinton last night prior to the Republican Debate and I think  that it  smacks of pomposity! President Obama suggested that all Democrats watch the debate so they know what they are up against. Hillary's e-mail, on the other hand, seems to be arrogant and another indication of her feeling of entitlement to the Presidency.

I suggest that any who wish to contribute to Democrats choose Bernie (he watched the debate and tweeted on it) -- or O'Malley or Webb or Pell. I know that Bernie, from his history will run a respectful campaign on the issues and I expect that the others would too.

(PS -- since I posted this on Facebook, some master of the language called me an "asshole", an "arrogant prick" and said that I hated Hillary and that I was "hitting below the belt". He also "unfriended" me. I think I can live with that.


>
> > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> > From: "Hillary Clinton"

> > Date: Aug 6, 2015 10:31 PM
> > Subject: I'm not watching tonight's debate
> > To:
> > Cc:
> >
> > I don't need to.
> > Friend --
> >
> > Right this minute, ten Republican men are on national TV, arguing over which one will do the best job of dragging our country backwards.
> >
> > I'm not watching, and I don't need to be.
> >
> > Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio -- they all have the same agenda. They are out of step with the kind of country Americans want for themselves and their children.
> >
> > I'm on the road tonight, but I wanted to take a moment to ask you to chip in $1 or more right now to fight for the vision you and I share:
> >
> > https://www.hillaryclinton.com/gop-debate/
> >
> > Thanks,
> >
> > Hillary
> >

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The 100th Show!



Enclosed is an invitation to the 100th episode of the "Weekly johnmac Radio Show". Please join me by calling 646 716-9756 this Sunday (August 9that 7:00 PM Eastern time) -- you may also listen on your computer at: http://tobtr.com/7817607 -- but I would prefer that you join us live.

I've invited all previous guests already -- Dr. Paul Levinson was the first to RSVP which is fitting as he was my first guest in September 2013; how time flies when you are having fun. As most of you know, the guests have simply been folk who interest me and have included writers, academics, law enforcement, religious leaders, technologists, and politicians, as well as Inwood originals

Please RSVP ASAP to johnmac13@gmail.com and join me and others on that night.

Be well and do well

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Jobs, Robots, & AI Again – Part 3

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My 172nd  column for the Westchester Guardian in the Creative Disruption Series, "Jobs, Robots, & AI Again -- Part 3" appears in the July 30th edition and is available at http://www.westchesterguardian.com/7_30_15/wg_7_30_fin.pdf The entire paper, including pieces by ex-Congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 Commmission Lee Hamilton, critic John Simon, Mark Jeffers, Limus Woods, and Robert Scott, is also available at the site.

URLs for my weekly "johnmac Radio Show" interviews with interesting people is available at my web home, www.johnmac13.com under the johnmac Radio Show tab and my free daily online newspaper, "johnmac's news of the day", is available at http://paper.li/f-1416296565.  Articles for the paper are curated from the New York Times, Reason Magazine, New York Daily News, Wired Magazine, New York Post, the Nation, Washington Post, National Review, Miami Herald, the Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, Mother Jones, and other sources)

Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changers normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  
Jobs, Robots, & AI Again – Part 3
By John F. McMullen
Even if one accepts the evidence presented in my previous two columns that ongoing innovation in technology will cause greater and greater disruption in the economy in general and employment in particular – and I do – we are, as mentioned in the last column, then faced with the enormous question of how we deal with these changes.
In addition to the obvious point that we don’t know exactly what the changes are and when they will occur – and expert opinion is all over the place on these issues, we are faced with much more than understanding and coping with the technological changes. To deal with the changes may well require major changes to our economic and political structures – and that will mean coping with major interest groups on every side – business, capital, labor, political parties, government, state, and municipal bureaucracies, etc.
In the previous two columns in this sub-series, I focused on and quote extensively two recent works – “Rework America’s” America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age,” a 2015 375-page book by a group of fifty forward thinkers and public intellectuals (business people, technologists, politicians, academics, and labor officialsincluding Zoe Baird, Sen. Cory Booker, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, MIT’s Erik Brynjofsson &  Andrew McAfee, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, AFL-CIO’s Elizabeth Shuler, Goldman Sachs’ Robert Zoellick, Esther Dyson, & John Seely Brown) and “A World Without Work” (The Atlantic, July / August 2015 issue), by Derek Thompson. I still recommend these works thoroughly.
In this, the wrap-up piece in the series, I devote the entire column to often conflicting opinions found in an 18 page section “Hi, Robot: Work and Life in the Age of Automation” in The July / August 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine.  
Introducing the issue, Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose provides background on the contributors – “Daniela Rus is one of the world’s leading roboticists and director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. She describes what robots are already doing now and what else they will be doing a few years down the road. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, also at MIT, explore whether automation and robots will progress to the point where humans become as economically obsolete as horses. Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, isn’t worried; he thinks the impact and significance of today’s emerging technologies are vastly overestimated. Illah Nourbakhsh, director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab) at Carnegie Mellon University, explores the regulatory, legal, and existential challenges that an increasing reliance on robots will soon raise. And the European experts Nicolas Colin and Bruno Palier discuss the future of social policy in the digital age, arguing that a shift to the “flexicurity” at the heart of the Nordic model is more necessary than ever before.” – and explains some of the limitations of dealing with future unknown changes – “Something is clearly happening here, but we don’t know what it means. And by the time we do, authors and editors might well have been replaced by algorithms along with everybody else. Until then, we offer these dispatches from the frontlines of the robotics revolution.
In Daniela Rus’ piece, “The Robots Are Coming,” she focuses on the impact of robots to date and then moves into where we might be going—“ Yet the objective of robotics is not to replace humans by mechanizing and automating tasks; it is to find ways for machines to assist and collaborate with humans more effectively. Robots are better than humans at crunching numbers, lifting heavy objects, and, in certain contexts, moving with precision. Humans are better than robots at abstraction, generalization, and creative thinking, thanks to their ability to reason, draw from prior experience, and imagine. By working together, robots and humans can augment and complement each other’s skills.
She provides a vision of a future that I hadn’t really thought about before, one of ubiquitous robots – “Creating a world of pervasive, customized robots is a major challenge, but its scope is not unlike that of the problem computer scientists faced nearly three decades ago, when they dreamed of a world where computers would become integral parts of human societies. In the words of Mark Weiser, a chief scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in the 1990s, who is considered the father of so-called ubiquitous computing: “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Computers have already achieved that kind of ubiquity. In the future, robots will, too.”
This is a rosy view but it still leaves open the question of how will we get to this future and what changes in our way of life will be necessary to get there. Martin Wolf, in “Same as It Ever Was: Why the Techno-optimists Are Wrong,” frames the challenge somewhat differently and provides what many may see as radical responses. He first takes us through the impact of technological changes from the nineteenth century to the present and then writes “Inevitably, uncertainty is pervasive. Many believe that the impact of what is still to come could be huge. The economist Carl Benedikt Frey and the machine-learning expert Michael Osborne, both of Oxford University, have concluded that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at high risk from automation. In the nineteenth century, they argue, machines replaced artisans and benefited unskilled labor. In the twentieth century, computers replaced middle-income jobs, creating a polarized labor market.
In Wolf’s view, then the problem is not simply an integration of new technology into our world as it has successfully be done in the past but also to do it while holding our social fabric together and benefiting more than just a few. He writes “So how might we respond now to these imagined futures?
“First, new technologies bring good and bad. We must believe we can shape the good and manage the bad.
“Second, we must understand that education is not a magic wand. One reason is that we do not know what skills will be demanded three decades hence. Also, if Frey and Osborne are right, so many low- to middle-skilled jobs are at risk that it may already be too late for anybody much over 18 and for many children. Finally, even if the demand for creative, entrepreneurial, and high-level knowledge services were to grow on the required scale, which is highly unlikely, turning us all into the happy few is surely a fantasy.
“Third, we will have to reconsider leisure. For a long time, the wealthiest lived a life of leisure at the expense of the toiling masses. The rise of intelligent machines would make it possible for many more people to live such lives without exploiting others. Today’s triumphant puritanism finds such idleness abhorrent. Well then, let people enjoy themselves busily. What else is the true goal of the vast increases in prosperity we have created?
“Fourth, we may need to redistribute income and wealth on a large scale. Such redistribution could take the form of a basic income for every adult, together with funding for education and training at any stage in a person’s life. In this way, the potential for a more enjoyable life might become a reality. The revenue could come from taxes on bads (pollution, for example) or on rents (including land and, above all, intellectual property). Property rights are a social creation. The idea that a small minority should overwhelmingly benefit from new technologies should be reconsidered. It would be possible, for example, for the state to obtain an automatic share of the income from the intellectual property it protects.
“Fifth, if labor shedding does accelerate, it will be essential to ensure that demand for labor expands in tandem with the rise in potential supply. If we succeed, many of the worries over a lack of jobs will fade away. Given the failure to achieve this in the past seven years, that may well not happen. But we could do better if we wanted to.”
Rather heady recommendations – and some such as the redistribution of wealth will not go down easily – Them that has usually fights tooth and nail to keep it – not only money but position, influence, power, etc. Wolf has an answer for that -- “It is also possible that the ultimate result might be a tiny minority of huge winners and a vast number of losers. But such an outcome would be a choice, not a destiny. Techno-feudalism is unnecessary. Above all, technology itself does not dictate the outcomes. Economic and political institutions do. If the ones we have do not give the results we want, we will need to change them.”
It is difficult in limited space to explore in proper detail the breadth of Wolf’s eight page article and obviously I didn’t even get into the pieces by Brynjolfsson & McAfee (“Will Humans Go the Way of Horses: Labor in the Second Machine Age”), Noubakhsn (“The Coming Robot Dystopia: All Too Inhuman”), and Colin & Palier (“The Next Safety Net: Social Policy for a Digital Age”). I certainly commend these to the readers’ attention (two articles per month may be read for free at the Foreign Affairs website, www.foreignaffairs.com, after registration). It may not be easy to get through the uncertainties of the technological future but, the more we know, the better we should be able to cope with its vagaries.
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jobs, Robots, & AI Again -- Part 2

(My 171st  column for the Westchester Guardian in the Creative Disruption Series, "Jobs, Robots, & AI Again -- Part 2" appears in the July 23rd edition and is available at http://www.westchesterguardian.com/7_23_15/wg_7_23_fin.pdf. The entire paper, including pieces by critic John Simon, Mary Keon, Peggy Godfrey, and Robert Scott, is also available at the site. The column is posted below.)

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Creative Disruption
Creative Disruption is a continuing series examining the impact of constantly accelerating technology on the world around us. These changers normally happen under our personal radar until we find that the world as we knew it is no more.  
Jobs, Robots, & AI Again – Part 2
By John F. McMullen
If one accepts the evidence presented in my previous column that ongoing innovation in technology will cause greater and greater disruption in the economy in general and employment in particular – and I do – we are then faced with the question of how we deal with these changes. It is, of course, hard to answer the question when we don’t know exactly what the changes are and when they will occur – and expert opinion is all over the place on these issues.
We have the optimistic people who feel that the people of the United States have the inherent skills and wherewithal to cope with any such problems if we first recognize the problem, understand the depths of it, come up with a well-thought-out solution, get the public behind it, and work very hard to implement the solutions. This belief and will to succeed is evidenced in the 2015 375-page book by “Rework America,” a group of fifty forward thinkers and public intellectuals (business people, technologists, politicians, academics, and labor officials) entitled “America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age.
In the preface to the book, Zoe Baird of the Markle Foundation, explains the groups’ view of the challenge, writing, “Together, we are in the midst of the biggest economic transformation in a hundred years. It has disrupted the expectations – and even dreams of millions of Americans. The defining challenge of our time is making sure that all Americans will be included in this transformation.”
A bit later, Baird attempts to frame today’s challenge into a historical context – “We have been here before. A century ago, America was going through the greatest economic transformation and technological revolution in its history. Cities sprang up overnight, and traditional farm life disappeared for many. There were extremes of wealth and poverty. Then came the Great Depression, which left a third of America, in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished.
“Only when our leaders began to embrace new approaches for a new world did the American Dream achieve real meaning for the majority of Americans.
“In the decades that have passed since, no other era has achieved the scale and significance of the economic upheaval of the early 1900s.
“Until today.
“The transformation of the past 20 years – as our nation has moved through the information era into the digital age – has turned the world upside down again.
The authors return to the optimistic “been there – done that” theme at the very end of the book, quoting Woodrow Wilson in a 1912 campaign speech – “ There is one great basic fact which underlies all the questions. … That singular fact is that nothing is done in this country as it was done twenty years ago. We are in the presence of a new organization of society. Our life has broken away from the past. … We have changed our economic conditions, absolutely, from top to bottom, and with our economic society, the organization of our life. The old political formulas do not fit the present problems.”
Wow! Wilson could certainly have been talking about today. Twenty years ago, the graphic browser “Mosaic” and its commercial successor Netscape’s “Navigator” were just bringing the World Wide Web to the masses and creating a reason for people to have computers in their homes – and twenty years ago, on July 15, 1995, Amazon debuted as an on-line book seller. Today, of course, Amazon sells just about everything and has made its millions of customers part of the ordering system, dramatically changing how business is done in the United States.
While the authors of America’s Moment use Wilson’s quote to support their belief in our ability to adjust (as long as we follow their prescription), others could take the same words to support much more radical ideas. In “A World Without Work” (The Atlantic, July / August 2015 issue), author Derek Thompson introduces us to a small group of writers, academics, and economists who have been labeled “post-workists” and “welcome, even root for the end of labor.” (even though I dwell on this aspect of Thompson’s fine 11 page article here, there is much more to the piece and I recommend its reading in its entirety -- http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/). Thompson quotes Peter Frase, the author of the forthcoming book, “Four Futures,” dealing with how automation will change America in massive ways:
·      The means by which the economy produces goods,
·      The means by which people earn income,
·      An activity that lends meaning or purpose to many people’s lives.
Fraser told Thompson “We tend to conflate these things because today we need to pay people to keep the lights on, so to speak. But in a future of abundance, you wouldn’t, and we ought to think about ways to make it easier and better to not be employed.”
Thompson goes on to discuss this view with Benjamin Hunnicutt, another post-workist and a historian at the University of Iowa. Hunnicutt said that American society “has an irrational belief in work for work’s sake even though most jobs aren’t so uplifting.” He pointed to a 2014 Gallup report of worker satisfaction which found that as many as 70 percent of Americans don’t feel engaged by their current job and added “Purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, creativity, autonomy – all the things that positive psychology has shown us to be necessary for well-being are absent in the average job.”
While Thompson recognizes some truth in what the post-workist say, he feels that they miss the importance of self-esteem that can be gotten from meaningful work and the need that most have to keep busy – he points out that, according to Nielsen, retired seniors watch about 50 hours of television a week – “That means that they spend a majority of their lives either sleeping or sitting on the sofa looking at a flat screen. The unemployed theoretically have the most time to socialize, and yet studies have shown that they feel the most social isolation; it is surprisingly hard to replace the camaraderie of the water cooler.
What Thompson does agree with the post-workers is an important point – “Paid labor does not always map to social good. Raising children and caring for the sick is important work, and these jobs are compensated poorly or not at all.” He understands, however, that the proposed solution of the post-workists is not feasible in the present political and economic climate in the United States. Moreover, though, he disagrees with the solution, writing, “When I think about the role that work plays in people’s self-esteem – particularly in America – the prospect of a no-work future seems helpless. There is no universal basic income that can prevent the civic ruin of a country built on a handful of workers permanently subsidizing tens of millions of people. But a future of less work still holds a glint of hope, because the necessity of salaried jobs now prevents so many from seeking immersive activities that they enjoy.
The prime importance, I think, of “America’s Moment,” the Thompson article, the forthcoming “Four Futures” and other works is that lots of people are now thinking that massive changes are in the offing and are trying to cope with the challenges that they see. The July / August 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs contains an 18 page section “Hi, Robot: Work and Life in the Age of Automation” with contributions from Daniela Russ (“The Robots Are Coming: How Technological Breakthroughs Will Transform Everyday Life”), Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (“Will Humans Go the Way of Horses: Labor in the Second Machine Age”), Martin Wolf (“Same as It Ever Was: Why the Techno-optimists Are Wrong”), Illah Reza Noubakhsn (“The Coming Robot Dystopia: All Too Inhuman”), and Nicholas Colin and Bruno Palier (“The Next Safety Net: Social Policy for a Digital Age”). It seems to me that there is much of value in the contributions of these writers and their insights will be examined in my next column.
Stay tuned!
John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com, and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2015 John F. McMullen



 
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